“We [parents] see that our schools are overpopulated, and so are the physical education classes. Even though the law says that our kids should have a certain number of hours of PE class they aren’t getting it. If we as parents don’t speak up about it, no one will do anything for us.
“We must fight so our kids have PE.”
– Rafaela, Queens resident and parent
Students, parents, educators, advocates, and community members agree: every student deserves access to physical education. In fact, state law requires it. Yet many schools in New York City are falling short. That’s why the Phys Ed 4 All Coalition launched a new campaign today to amplify the voices of New Yorkers.
Watch the videos below to learn more about challenges and opportunities for physical education in New York City, share your own story, and join the movement to ensure every student’s right to PE.
Rafaela and Fernando, Queens residents
Active Kids Are Healthy Kids
Lack of physical activity can have lasting impacts on kids’ mental and physical health – it contributes to heart disease, diabetes, stress, and anxiety. Sean, a teacher in the Bronx, says “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and physical education can help prevent the health inequities in, for example, the Bronx, where residents are impacted by high rates of chronic diseases.
As Rafaela, a mom and Queens resident, said: “I don’t want that for my kids.”
Active Kids Learn Better
Physical education improves the entire school day. Students who are healthy and physically active are more likely to perform better in all of their classes. Cristina, a mom in Queens, saw the way a lack of PE contributed to behavior problems for her son. Ben, a PE teacher in the Bronx, said more PE “might decrease the amount of behavior problems” and “increase the amount of attention in the classroom.” Kaylynn, a student in the Bronx, agrees: “I let out all my energy that I was building up during the first three periods, and I am able to focus and I am able to ask questions and really engage with others.”
PE also improves kids’ judgement, self-confidence, and self-esteem. Brian, a PE teacher from Manhattan, called it “the ultimate anti-bullying.”
Ben, PE teacher in the Bronx
Adequate Space for Physical Education
Schools need better and more physical education facilities and equipment so all kids can be active. That’s why we celebrated New York City’s recent announcement of new funding to build space at schools that don’t have any for PE.
Cristina describes her son’s former school, which had “two spaces that are only about 30 feet wide. They have columns in the middle of it. It’s actually the receiving area for shipping packages.” PE teachers do the best with what they have. Sean, a PE teacher in the Bronx said, “The best place is a gym, but…you have to be creative and if that space isn’t given to you [you] still have to be as effective and motivational as possible. So whether it’s in the cafeteria or whether you’re in a hallway you have to just be as impactful as possible.”
Lack of space also leads to overcrowding. Brian, a PE teacher from Manhattan, said, “The class sizes can be really outrageous… It’s really hard to come up with the right amount of equipment, space to move about safely when it’s one teacher per 80 kids.” Overcrowding remains a problem across the city. It’s vital for every school to have adequate indoor and outdoor space for effective PE.
Adequate Time for Physical Education
Data shows that many schools are falling short of state requirements for the number of minutes and days per week dedicated to PE. Parents and educators agree. Lida, a mom of three in Bushwick, and Anabel, a mom of a son in Bushwick, both described their kids getting just a half hour of PE per week. Yuderki, an educator in the Bronx, called PE in her school “insufficient.”
Without quality PE programs, kids have limited opportunities for physical activity during the day. Rafaela, a mom in Queens, described her friends’ struggles to find the time to encourage physical activity at home. To help kids stay healthy and perform better in all their classes, schools should include daily physical activity as part of their education programs.
Lida, Brooklyn resident and parent
Anabel, Manhattan resident and parent
Inclusive Physical Education
A physical education curriculum must be inclusive: it’s vital that each and every student receive physical education. Some students may require an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that includes appropriate accommodations for PE. No student should ever get an exemption or waiver from PE requirements. Nothing can replace the lessons learned in physical education, which will set kids up for a lifetime of healthy habits.
Brian, a certified PE teacher, said certified PE teachers are “given the tools to adapt to almost every type of IEP” and “understand all the different teaching strategies that every type of learner has so you can incorporate anything that’s needed.
“There is no excuse. There is no reason that anybody should be left out.”
Certified Physical Education Teachers
“Physical education is…a key piece in the overall curriculum and development of every child. It’s just as important as math and English and writing,” said Brian, Manhattan resident and PE teacher. “It hits all three domains of learning: you have your cognitive area, you have your affective area, and you have your psychomotor. Those are the three ways that all brains learn. In a phys ed class, you’re tickling all three of those in every lesson plan.”
That’s why it’s so important that PE is taught by trained and certified teachers who are supported by their schools. Brian said, “You’ve got to have quality certified physical education teachers who are part of the staff, part of the school culture. So they are at staff meetings, they are being sent to professional development. They are being assessed.”
Cristina, a mom in Queens, agrees: “I have seen the difference in the last couple of years with our certified phys ed teacher who, in a school of 2,007, knows my son’s name, his strengths, his weaknesses; [he] tells me, meets me and says what he needs to work on and what he is improving on, and that builds confidence in my son.”
“We must fight so our kids have PE”
Physical education was a major contributor to Cristina’s decision to switch him from one of the most crowded schools in the city to a different school that “has recess every day, has [PE], has a beautiful outdoor play area” where her son can “be more active in his own life and goals.” Lack of access to PE is impacting students’ and families’ lives.
The Phys Ed 4 All Coalition is working to ensure every student’s right to PE. Yuderki, a teacher in the Bronx, describes the ideal PE program as on that is “inclusive, a program where all students are welcome regardless of their background, culture, race, socioeconomic status. It would be welcoming to everyone regardless of any barriers.”
Yuderki, teacher in the Bronx